The Brooklyn Amity school formally introduced itself to the community last week, hoping to eliminate concerns that residents may have about the school’s new enlarged location.
Speaking at the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association Meeting Tuesday night, Amity School Guidance Counselor Ismael Topokaya explained the school’s background and mission to the neighborhood group. Amity School, a nonsectarian school founded in 1999, is currently wrapping up the move from their previous location on Coney Island Avenue to 3867 Shore Parkway.
When word hit of new owners for the former Golden Gate Inn property last winter, it sparked unease from residents wondering who exactly was moving in, and what they planned to do with the site. Members of the civic expressed those concerns on Sheepshead Bites in February. In response, Topokaya gave a thorough rundown of the Amity School in hope rallying the community’s support for what he believes is a better use of the space than some of the alternatives that have come to light.
A growing private school for ages K-12 with an emphasis on math and science, Amity School encourages their students to challenge themselves and engage with the world around them, according to the school’s representatives.
“In every possible way we want them to be involved with the community,” said Topokaya.
The community, however, brought forth a laundry list of concerns plaguing them since Amity purchased the old motel last December.
Many residents’ reservations related to the plans for the enormous space of the property, much of which is still empty.
All of the space, said Executive Director of the Board Kilic Mehmet, will eventually be used for school purposes. Amity hopes to add two additional buildings – a gymnasium/auditorium and a separate building for high school students. There are also plans for sports fields and tennis courts. The expansion would make Amity the largest private school in the neighborhood.
The larger facilities are necessary for Amity, which outgrew its old location. The current enrollment of 250 is an increase from last year, and they hope to reach the full capacity of 490 that the new building allows.
“A tree doesn’t grow overnight,” Mehmet said. “But we think we’ll reach capacity in two to three years time.”
Traffic was also a concern, given the school’s proximity to both the intersection of Knapp Street and the Belt Parkway as well as the United Artists Sheepshead Bay Theater.
But Mehmet assured the crowd that the school will not add to the congestion. All buses will pull into loops on the school property, he claimed, which will not affect traffic on the street. Furthermore, school hours will never correspond with the rush of cars headed to the theaters on Friday and Saturday nights.
Such a situation would also be safer for students, he pointed out. The Coney Island Avenue location had children boarding and exiting buses right on the avenue, where impatient drivers are often speeding.
Overall, though, the biggest complaint was what the community saw as a lack of transparency from Amity. Residents wanted to know why it took so long for the school to come and introduce themselves at a community event.
Mehmet apologized and claimed miscommunication on the school’s part, as well as assurances they would have come out sooner if they had known.
“To our surprise,” he said, “people didn’t know who we were.”
Amity reached out to community leaders months ago about their plans, hoping the message would then reach the community as a whole. Apparently it had not.
Still, Amity school was thankful, and after a few endorsements from the crowd, hoped to put aside past concerns and continue with openness with the community.
“It’s our first appearance,” Mehmet promised at the meeting. “And it won’t be our last.”